Rost: Is Seahawks QB Geno Smith’s play a cause for concern?
Oct 23, 2023, 10:27 AM
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
It’s hard not to play into some recency bias when it comes to the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive woes. Even with a Pro Bowl season from quarterback Geno Smith last year, this was a group that was good but not without questions.
It’s no surprise then that after a sloppy day, one of those questions is back: Do the Seahawks have a Geno Smith problem?
The numbers and context here are important, but I’ll spare you a roundabout answer: right now, no. Smith’s decision-making errors have proven costly in at least one loss. But six games in with several injured offensive linemen and two wins totaling nearly 40 points apiece, it’s hard to tell just yet whether those issues are going to stick.
Let’s start with those wins. The Seahawks’ offense in Weeks 2 and 3 totaled 37 points in each contest, with at least 24 points coming in the second half. They scored on a combined 7 of 11 trips into the red zone. Smith’s Week 2 game against the Lions was perhaps his best as a Seahawks starter.
After not dipping below 50% on red zone conversions for four weeks, the Seahawks have struggled mightily there over the last two outings. They’ve gone a combined 2 of 8, including two interceptions from Smith.
And that’s where the worry – fairly – comes in. Smith’s final line in Sunday’s win against the Arizona Cardinals was nothing to critique: 18 of 24 (75%) for 219 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a 113.0 passer rating is a fine day. But for the second time in as many weeks, Smith made a bad decision in the red zone that ended with a turnover (this time to a rookie Cardinals defender, Garrett Wilson, who was staring his way the entire time). He also mishandled a snap that resulted in a fumble.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 22, 2023
“Yeah, it’s something we’ve been talking about,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters after Sunday’s game when asked whether he was concerned about Smith’s turnovers. “He got on the sprint, he’s outside the pocket and it didn’t happen on rhythm, so it went to a late rhythm. And he took a shot, trying to squeeze one in there – and he knows. We saw him do that in camp a few times, and it’s something that’s topical, and he’s sick about it. He should’ve just eaten the football or run with the football right there – that’s what the options are.”
Against a solid offense, one turnover can be a problem. Against a great offense, two can all but end a game. Thankfully for Seahawks fans, the Cardinals are not one of those offenses that can make Seattle pay for it. Neither are next Sunday’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, but their defense is tops in DVOA and packs one of the biggest punches Smith and Seattle’s offense will face all season.
So yes, a quarterback who turns the ball over is an issue. But Smith’s seven touchdowns to four interceptions make his season far more similar to that of Dak Prescott or Joe Burrow rather than to the league’s worst. And while he’s not touching the yardage of the league’s most prolific passers (Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes top the yardage list right now), he’s still top 10 in quarterback rating.
The problem with Smith isn’t that he’s a bad quarterback who’s sinking his team – because that’s quite simply not true. The problem is that he hasn’t yet shown he can consistently be a great quarterback, and that’s who Seattle needs as they inch near its toughest stretch of the season yet.
The good and bad news moving forward
Seattle came out of this one mostly healthy. That, and another stellar performance from their defense, is the best news from Sunday.
The bad news? An offense that needs to find a way to score more consistently in the red zone could go yet another week without starting right tackle Abraham Lucas.
“From what I’m hearing, I can’t say hey, yeah, he’s coming back,” Carroll said. “I don’t know that. He’s got to surprise us a bit. It’s just taking time for this process to get him right.”
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